High Point University Baseball Wins Big on Opening Day

Site: High Point, N.C. (Williard Stadium)
Score: High Point 16, Lafayette 8
Records: HPU: 1-0, LC: 0-1
W: Harrison Smith (1-0), L: JP Woodward (0-1), S: Carter Sheppard (1)
Next HPU Event: Saturday, Feb. 15 — vs. Lafayette (Williard Stadium, High Point, N.C.), 2 p.m.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team set a record for the most runs scored on opening day in its Division I history with a 16-8 beating of Lafayette College Friday night (Feb. 14). Senior Harrison Smith got the nod to start on the mound and held the Leopards to just three runs in over five innings of work. Sophomores Evan Bergman and Sam Zayicek had big nights offensively, driving in five and four runs, respectively, each setting career-highs in RBIs.

“This was a tremendous way to start the season, an amazing offensive display tonight,” head coach Craig Cozart said after the win. “What Zayicek and Bergman did alone, going a combined 7-7 with nine RBIs, they set a tremendous tone. I’m proud of our guys. Harrison gave us a quality start and we have to figure out a way come out tomorrow and secure the series.”

Smith was dealing from the beginning, striking out two batters in each of the first two innings. Lafayette was still able to get on the board first, hitting a home run to left-center with two outs in the bottom of the second. High Point didn’t trail for long, knotting things up in the bottom half of the inning.

Senior center fielder Ryan Russell started the inning off with a double to right. Freshman Justin Ebert drew a walk in his first career trip to the plate, and the bases were loaded when Zayicek was hit by a pitch. The Panthers scored the tying run in the next at bat when Bergman sent a deep fly ball to center to score Russell on the sacrifice.

Smith sent the Leopards down in order in the third and made way for a huge outburst from High Point’s offense. Brian Rall started things off with a single up the middle and then came around to score when Brady Pearre hit a homer of his own over the wall in left. HPU loaded the bases with the next three batters, with two singles sandwiched between a walk to senior Joe Johnson.

Ebert was up again and singled through the ride side of the infield to score Travis Holt and pick up his first collegiate RBI. Russell and Johnson came around to score on a double down the right-field line from Zayicek, and Bergman scored Ebert and Zayicek with a double to the gap in right-center. That was all the Panthers would see from LC’s starter as Lafayette made a call to the bullpen after giving up five runs on four straight hits. Lafayette’s reliever did the job, picking up all three outs in the inning while only facing five batters. Still, the damage had been done, with HPU leading 8-1 after three innings.

Bergman picked up his fourth and fifth RBIs of the game in the fourth, sending the ball over the left fielder’s head for a triple, plating Zayicek and Russell to make it 10-1. The Purple and White tacked on three more in the fifth, starting the inning off with three consecutive doubles.

Pearre ripped one down the line in left and came around to score when Holt found the gap in right. Johnson was up next and scored Holt with a double down the line in right, and then came around to score when Zayicek sent one into the student section behind the wall in right-center for HPU’s second homer of the game. It took the Panthers five games a season ago to hit their first home run of the year and they finished the year with only seven games featuring multiple home runs.

Lafayette made another call to the bullpen after the home run and once again the reliever was able to get out of the inning unscathed, but not before High Point pushed the lead to double-digits, 14-3.

The Leopards started to turn things around later in the middle innings, picking up two runs in the sixth. A Panther error put runners on first and second and Smith walked the bases loaded. LC scored for the first time since the second in the next at bat, doubling to left to plate two. That was it in the game for Smith, leaving after five and one-third innings, surrendering three runs (two earned) on three hits, with seven strikeouts and a pair of walks.

Freshman Carter Sheppard came in to relieve Smith and got the final two outs of the sixth, picking up his first career strikeout. The Panthers went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth and Lafayette came right back out and picked up five in the seventh.

Runners made it to first and second on another HPU error, and one came around to score on a single in the next at bat. Sheppard walked the bases loaded and then got a deep flyout to left for a sacrifice fly and second out of the inning. The Leopards weren’t finished in the inning yet, hitting a three-run homer to left-center to cut High Point’s lead to 14-8 before Sheppard notched his second strikeout of the game. The four combined home runs are the most in a single game for HPU since the Panthers and Wake Forest combined for seven on April 9 of last year.

High Point got one back on a double steal attempt in the seventh. Zayicek was at first and Bergman was 90 feet away from the plate with two outs when Zayicek headed for second. Bergman broke home on the throw and made it to the plate while Zayicek wasted enough time in the rundown for the run to count, eventually being putout for the third out of the inning, 2-4-3-6. That gave HPU 15 runs on the day, the most runs the Panthers have scored on opening day in their Division I history, surpassing the old mark of 14 runs from the 2004 season, a 14-7 victory on the road at Georgia Southern.

High Point set another school record in the eighth when Rall doubled to right. It was the Purple and White’s ninth double of the game, a record in the D1 history of High Point baseball. Rall came around to score two batters later when Holt singled up the middle to double up Lafayette, 16-8. The Panthers loaded the bases with two outs but a hard liner to short off the bat of freshman Adam Stuart ended the chance of the Panthers putting up more runs.

“I have to give our hitters a lot of credit,” Cozart had to say of the team’s offensive display. “Coach Laws, coach Marlin, and coach Fenisey the last week and a half have really worked hard with our guys on a specific approach and our guys executed it to a T and they got rewarded for it.”

Sheppard came back out to pick up the 3+ inning save and struck out one more batter to end his collegiate debut with six strikeouts in three and two-thirds inning of work while allowing just one earned run on five hits with a walk.

High Point is back in action tomorrow (Feb. 15) for the middle game of the series with the Leopards. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. and admission to the game is free as part of High Point University’s Family Weekend.